Friends/readers- my apologies for being a bit behind on the blog this week. I’m juggling a lot this week and have been stretched pretty thin. But here are a couple of tidbits I’ve rounded up that piqued my interest.

Credit: SpaceX

The current leader in the commercial spaceflight race for ferrying NASA’s astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. They decided to combine the next two missions into one sometime last year, but the combined mission has faced several delays recently. Originally scheduled to launch late last year, this mission will be the first commercial mission to launch and dock with the ISS. That’s why this flight is so important and why they are double and triple checking to make sure they’ve dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s. If all goes well the Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from Cape Canaveral at 4:55 AM EDT Saturday morning. For more visit NASA or Bad Astronomy.

In other space-related news, NASA’s Messenger mission has been busy orbiting and making detailed maps of planet Mercury. Having no atmosphere, Mercury’s blistering surface is nothing but craters, and thus the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has been busy naming those craters. Andy Warhol was the latest celeb to get a crater named after him, and to celebrate, the mission managers created this image of the Warhol crater in the style of the pop art screen prints he’s famous for:

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

 

Credit: NASA

You’re looking at an important piece of history when you look at the above photograph. That’s the first ever image of Mercury taken from orbit. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft successfully entered stable orbit around the solar system’s smallest planet, and yesterday morning we got the first images taken from said orbit. The spacecraft has taken other images of Mercury as it approached, but Messenger just recently actually entered a permanent/stable orbit, and will remain there for at least a year, studying this hot, battered planet in unprecedented detail. This is also the first time any spacecraft has orbited Mercury to begin with. (Via Discovery News)

In some other space-related news, NASA decided to pull the plug on James Cameron’s idea to install a 3D camera on the next Mars rover mission, Curiosity. Honestly, I love this idea, as it would have allowed anyone with 3D glasses to watch cinema quality footage from the surface of Mars. When you really think about that, it’s absolutely mind-boggling: 3D video footage from another planet. However, NASA felt that since this rover is already way over-budget, the risk of failure was too great because the cameras haven’t been thoroughly tested. I’m certain that this technology will end up on another NASA mission to Mars in the future. So just wait. In another 5-10 year’s we’ll be looking at HD footage from Mars in 3D. NBD… (Via i09)

A sneak peek from the new season of LOST. I’m officially excited. I might even try to start having LOST viewing parties. I don’t really have people over to my place very much… if at all, so here’s to trying something new.

What does Obama have in mind for NASA’s Constellation program? Ok, I get it, we have budget problems… but we can’t just throw away all the hard work NASA has put into the successor to the space shuttle- the Constellation program. We have to see Ares I, Ares V, and the Orion capsule through to their completion. As quoted in the article, those programs are years ahead of any alternative. Changing course now would only widen the gap between the space shuttle and its successor. Mr. Obama, I love you, but please leave Constellation alone. For that matter, leave NASA’s budget alone… I’m all about your “scalpel” approach to budget cuts, but take the scalpel elsewhere. Too many people see space exploration as “unnecessary” or think “oh, it can wait.” The science that NASA does is VITAL to the progress of the human race. It’s more of a “big picture” mentality, but we’ll never achieve the goals of putting men on Mars, and eventually colonizing other worlds if we keep putting off the first steps toward them. NASA has been put on the backburner with increasing budget cuts ever since the end of the Apollo missions. The nation must get out of the mentality that space exploration and scientific discovery are secondary to the problems we face here on earth, because the scientific breakthroughs/discoveries that come as a result of said exploration will probably help to solve many of those problems- the biggest of which is the energy crisis and global warming. Sorry about the soap box, but I feel like I need to start including more of my own thoughts into this blog rather than just posting lots of links.

I was unaware of the legislation that passed in 2007 to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2014. I’m glad it passed… but this article points out that the mercury contained in the new compact fluorescent bulbs will pose a major environmental hazard if people don’t dispose of them properly.

In local music, The Features have a special Christmas package deal going at their website. You can get their latest album Some Kind of Salvation and a new Tshirt as a package deal. Get it while it’s hot.